Review: The Travelling Bag and Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill

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From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the evil otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a warmly lit club off St James, a bishop listens closely as a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

In ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and when she is dead.

A lonely boy finds a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later he is forced to question the nature of that friendship, and to ask whether ghosts can perish in fires.

This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically flesh-creeping and startling tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave readers wide-awake long into the night.


Short story collections provide a great mix of quick reads, hence why I love them so much! I was really looking forward to this one as I love a good scary story but unfortunately, this one didn’t live up to expectations.

I have reviewed each story individually below.


The Travelling Bag

The first short in the collection didn’t grab me from the get-go. I didn’t feel it was very spooky and I wasn’t really keen on the way it was laid out. I think the chopping and changing of scenes took away from any atmosphere it was attempting to build. However, the ending part of the story changed my opinion! I thought it was really well written and it made me feel completely claustrophobic and panicky.


Boy 21

I didn’t enjoy this short story too much. I was hoping for something a bit spooky but this was far more melancholic in tone. The synopsis lead me to believe this one was going to be far more sinister than it turned out to be, so it was a disappointing read for me. I felt bored by this one, it couldn’t hold my attention.


Alice Baker

Compared to the first two stories in the collection, this one was far creepier! It did well to build a sense of dread and foreboding – reading this late at night I did find myself feeling a little uneasy. However, it wasn’t a clever story, the plot and ending were extremely predictable which was disappointing after feeling more positive about this story over the others.


The Front Room

This is definitely my favourite short story from the collection. I actually found this one spooky! Old women characters always give me the heebie-jeebies (even though my own nan is the sweetest human being on earth). I finally felt like this story lived up to my ghost story expectations! The story was simple and predictable but it was filled with the weird and wonderful, so it was enjoyable.


Printer’s Devil Court

This was certainly a strange but chilling read, although I felt there was a lot of build up but not enough of a big shocking thing to create a fantastic and terrifying ending. I liked the plot for this one and think it could have been a really well done creepy scary story, but it went a bit soft and lost it’s spooky impact.


I think what I’ve gathered from this collection of short stories, and from knowing the plot of The Woman in Black, is that Susan Hill writes compelling, emotional ghost stories. There’s no doubt that she’s a compelling writer, and is able to create some pretty chilling tension, but most of her stories don’t build into anything big and spooky.

I was looking for a scary story collection, which is not something I got from this, so in that sense it disappointed me.

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11 Replies to “Review: The Travelling Bag and Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill”

  1. Susan Hill writes in the same style as the Victorian ghost story writers who were more focused on the general message behind the haunting and moral of the story style messages rather than big scares. So if you want a scary short story collection I wouldn’t recommend her work or any 19th century ghost story. They are all like that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I had the exact same issue with Susan Hill’s work. I read Woman in Black a few years ago looking for something really scary and it was just a basic old fashioned not scary ghost story. I ended up not liking her work. But I came back to her last year because I was on a Victorian ghost story kick and had read all of the old ones, so she seemed like a good idea. I ended up loving her work because I knew what to expect that time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Now see, this makes me think she might be the right kind of creepy for me. I’ll have to look into her writing. I wonder if her long format work is harder or easier to read than her short stories? Some authors do one or the other a lot better. I’m curious to see what you think of The Woman in Black when you get to it!

    Liked by 1 person

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